Bears Release Julius Peppers; Broncos Sign Aqib Talib, TJ Ward

Bears Release Julius Peppers; Broncos Sign Aqib Talib, TJ Ward

The Denver Broncos signed Aqib Talib, improving their secondary and damaging divisional rival New England Patriots all in one move.

The Broncos reached an agreement with the elite cornerback on a six-year, $57 million contract with $26 million in guaranteed money. The signing means an awkward reunion with former teammate Wes Welker, who knocked Talib out of the AFC championship game on a low hit on a crossing route. Patriots coach Bill Bellichick accused Welker of intentionally targeting Talib. Talib has battled hip issues the last few seasons, received a suspension for violating the league’s drug policy in 2012 allegedly over use of Adderall without a prescription, and has encountered several off-field legal issues, which makes the expense of the contract a clear sign of how much teams value a top cornerback. The move likely means Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie’s days in Denver are done. 

Denver also signed Cleveland safety T.J. Ward. “Excited to announce we’ve agreed to terms with strong safety T.J. Ward,” tweeted general manager John Elway. “He’ll bring energy and toughness to our secondary.” Denver’s pass defense struggled almost as much as its pass offense excelled in 2013. The Broncos ranked 27th against the pass, a lowly position that Ward and Talib figure to improve.

The loss of Talib pressures New England to enter the Darrelle Revis sweepstakes. The shutdown cornerback, still under contract with Tampa Bay, makes an unattractive acquisition via trade given his $16 million salary. But should he become available later today via a release, which would save the Buccaneers money and a draft pick potentially owed to the Jets, the Patriots would be one team among many competing to relocate Revis Island. 

The Chicago Bears parted ways with defensive end Julius Peppers on Tuesday. The pass rusher boasts 118.5 sacks over 13 seasons with Carolina and Chicago. At 34, coming off his least productive NFL season with 7.5 sacks, and scheduled to count $20 million against the salary cap, Peppers clearly had played his last game in a Bears uniform.

To replace Peppers, the Bears signed Raiders defensive end Lamarr Houston to a five-year, $35 million contract. Houston compiled six sacks last season and boasts sixteen sacks in his four-year NFL career.